Fit stretch woman stretching quad leg muscle standing getting ready to run jogging outside. Athlete trail running in the mountains on a beautiful morning.

What Is Dynamic Stretching? 

This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on 04/02/24

Whether you’re gearing up for a run, bike ride, weighted strength training session, or any other fitness activity, you will want your muscles and joints limbered up and ready to perform. But what is dynamic stretching and how is it beneficial? Dynamic stretching is a great way to prepare your muscles, loosen your joints, improve your flexibility and range of motion, and improve blood flow to make the most of your workout.

Dynamic stretching involves active movements, preferably similar to the activity you are about to do, that help prepare your muscles and tissues for more intense athletic training. This active stretching allows you to gradually move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion, raise your core body temperature, improve blood flow to get oxygen to your muscles, and prime your muscles, joints, and other tissues for higher-level activity. Dynamic stretching is a very functional and useful way to get ready to move and move quickly.

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching  

There are differences in static and dynamic stretching in terms of how they are performed, when it may be best to perform them, and their potential outcomes and benefits.

On one hand, dynamic stretching is an active movement where a joint and muscle are moved through their full range of motion in a controlled manner. Dynamic stretching exercises should be tailored to the activity you are about to perform, as they are useful for priming your muscles and joints for activity. These stretches are also best performed prior to working out as part of a complete and thorough warm-up as well as to improve blood flow. Dynamic stretches can also be used as part of a cool-down to gradually bring your core temperature down while also giving your muscles the little bit of dynamic stretch they may need after an intense workout, all while improving your body’s dynamic flexibility.

Static stretches, on the other hand, are stretch positions that are held for a period of time. Once you get your body in the position that stretches a muscle, it is typically held for anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute, or even longer, depending on the purpose of the static stretch. In this way, static stretching is best used to lengthen a muscle over the joints it crosses. Static stretching is best performed after a workout as a way to help relax and return your body to a more rested state.

Why is dynamic stretching important? 

Dynamic stretching is important to prepare and prime the muscle group and joints for any physical activity. It can boost athletic performance, increase blood flow, and potentially improve muscle performance. This is an integral component of any warm-up for anyone, regardless of fitness or activity level. Additional benefits of dynamic stretching include decreased joint stiffness, improved flexibility, and increased range of motion.

Another potential benefit of dynamic stretching exercises is decreasing injury risk. As part of a thorough and complete warm-up, especially one that is tailored more specifically to the activity you are about to do, dynamic stretching naturally warms up the joints and muscles you are about to use and gradually ramps up the more active you are about to do. Setting aside this time to gradually introduce larger and larger ranges of movement while steadily increasing blood flow means that your body is less likely to sustain an injury. Furthermore, utilizing dynamic stretching as part of a cool-down may mitigate any muscle soreness you may experience after an exertional effort.

Types of Dynamic Stretches 

Now you know the benefits and importance of a dynamic stretching exercise before any physical activity. To get started with your own dynamic stretching routine, consider these:

1. Arm circles

Arm circles are a great way to warm up your shoulders. Stand in the starting position with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms outstretched to your sides at shoulder height. Move them in circles, first forward for 10-20 rounds, and then backward for an additional 10-20 rounds. You can make small arm circles or bigger arm circles depending on your comfort, or start small and work your way to bigger circles.

2. Trunk rotations and twists

Trunk rotations or trunk twists help to mobilize, stretch, and move your upper back. Start with a standing position with your arms outstretched to your sides at shoulder height, and use your arms to generate some momentum to twist your upper body from side to side. Move from side to side for 10-20 rounds.

3. Leg swing

A leg swing is useful when you want to start warming up the leg muscles, hip flexor, hamstring, and glute. Find a place to stand where you can lightly hold on to a wall, fence, car, or post/pole of some sort for balance. Standing on just your right leg, swing your left leg forward and backward, letting the momentum you are creating move your leg freely. You can also swing your leg from side to side, crossing your swinging leg in front of you. Perform 10-20 rounds of each, and repeat on the opposite leg.

4. High Knee

High knees are a great way to warm up many muscles in your lower body. With a clear path in front of you, quickly drive one knee up into the air and then switch legs back and forth in a quick, marching-like manner. If this is too much impact for you, you can drive right or left knee up, grabbing the front of your shin with your arms, and give that leg a quick hug. Then place that foot back down and repeat with the opposite leg. You’ll want to do this for about 30 seconds.

5. Walking lunge with twist

A walking lunge with a twist is a great full lower body warm-up. Make sure you have a clear path in front of you. Take a large step forward, and bend both your knees so that you are lowering yourself to the ground. Hovering near the ground here, rotate your torso right and left, and then stand back up, moving forward to take another large step forward, this time with your other leg. Keep repeating this alternating pattern until you have done about 10 rounds on each leg.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During Dynamic Stretching

While dynamic stretching is a fantastic way to warm up your body before a workout, common mistakes can reduce its effectiveness or even lead to injury. Let’s highlight some of these pitfalls so you can get the most out of your dynamic stretching routine:

Skipping the Warm-Up

Jumping straight into dynamic stretches without a basic warm-up is like revving a cold engine. Start with a light activity, such as walking or jogging in place for a few minutes, to gently raise your body temperature and get the blood flowing to your muscles.

Moving Too Fast

Though dynamic stretching involves movement, speeding through the motions can compromise your form and effectiveness. Focus on controlled, deliberate movements that gradually increase in speed and range as your muscles warm up.


It’s crucial to listen to your body and not push it beyond its limits. Dynamic stretching should not cause pain. Extending your limbs too far or too fast can lead to strains or sprains. Remember, the goal is to prepare your body for activity, not to test its flexibility limits.

Ignoring Proper Technique

Each stretch should be performed with attention to form. Incorrect posture or alignment can negate the benefits of the stretch or even cause harm. For instance, when doing leg swings, keep your supporting leg slightly bent and your back straight to avoid unnecessary stress on your back and the standing leg.

Neglecting to Tailor Stretches to the Workout

Dynamic stretches should mimic the activity you’re about to perform. For example, if you’re preparing for a run, focus on leg and hip stretches. Using generic stretches for every workout won’t prepare your body as effectively for the specific movements it’s about to do.

Forgetting to Breathe

Breathing is integral to any form of stretching. Proper breathing helps to oxygenate your muscles, promote relaxation, and increase the effectiveness of your stretches. Inhale deeply before each stretch and exhale as you perform the movement.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you ensure that your dynamic stretching routine is as effective and safe as possible. Remember, the goal is to prepare your body for peak performance, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance your overall workout experience. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to a more efficient and enjoyable warm-up.

How can physical therapy help? 

Dynamic stretching can be an important component of a proper warm-up to enhance your physical performance during the activity. If you’re comparing occupational vs physical therapy, physical therapy has many benefits here. These stretches help increase blood flow and improve muscle extensibility. They can also decrease joint stiffness, decrease soreness during and after working out, and help with injury prevention. A physical therapist is well-versed in all the different ways you can incorporate dynamic stretching into your routine. They will help you craft, design, and implement a routine that is perfect for you. A physical therapist will not only be able to explain how and when dynamic stretching would be a useful adjunct to your warm-up or recovery plan, but will also be able to educate you on other recovery tactics, such as ice bath benefits, that are tailored to you, your personal limitations, or pains, and your goals for fitness, health, and wellness. Reach out to your physical therapist to learn more about how to maximize your recovery and reach your goals. Find a clinic near you and get in touch with us today!


Article By: Anne Diaz-Arrastia, PT, DPT, OCS

Anne Diaz-Arrastia, PT, DPT, OCS began her physical therapy career 5 years ago. Anne loves working with the active sports population and believes in the importance of providing individualized care that is specific to the activity and sport her patients love. She currently specializes in sports, orthopedics, vestibular, and concussion management. Anne enjoys working with patients of all activity levels and ages to help them reach their goals of living life just the way they envision. She currently treats patients at The Training Room of Haddonfield in Haddonfield, NJ.



The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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